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HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS
(... or "HOW THE FLORIDA RECOUNT BECAME A FAMILY HAPPENING")

A Special Edition of The Politics1 Report
November 30, 2000

by Ron Gunzburger
Publisher, Politics1.com

Ah, the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Because my Mother didn't have time this year to cook for the holiday, we instead were dining out in a nice, intimate restaurant. Squash soup with chestnuts, roast turkey, stuffing, fresh green beans. Everyone was there: family, loved ones ... and the two armed sheriff's deputies on my Mother's protective security detail standing guard out front. Perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself. Maybe I need to start the story a few days earlier.Suzanne Gunzburger

My mother, you see, is Broward County Commissioner Sue Gunzburger (D-FL). As Chair of the County Commission, it was her turn to serve as a member of the county's Election Canvassing Board. So, in a period of two weeks, she went from being an obscure, local politician and former school teacher (Vanity Fair columnist Christopher Hitchens described her as "every Republican's nightmare of a politically-correct schoolmarm") to being one of the most recognizable local politicians in America -- revered by Democrats and despised by Republicans.

In addition to my blood connection to the recount, I have also maintained friendships for several years with many of the other participants. These friends and acquaintances include Broward GOP Chairman Eddie Pozzuoli, Broward GOP Vice Chairman George LeMieux, Republican attorneys Bill Scherer and Shari McCartney, County Judge Robert Lee, Circuit Judge Bob Rosenberg, Larry Davis (Mom's attorney), Broward Democratic Chairman Mitch Ceasar and a host of the other local politicos from both sides of the aisle who paraded through the proceedings at various times. All in all, it made for a rather unique perspective on the events.

I'm not going to be making any excuses, explanations or apologies for what transpired. Instead -- in a series of almost "stream-of-consciousness" snapshots -- I'm going to try to simply report on the colorful, raucous, surreal political circus I observed and heard over the course of the final days of the important Broward County manual recount.


OBSERVER TRAINING SCHOOL. One young lawyer from Broward who volunteered to work as an observer at the recount told me the story of how he came to be working for the Democrats at Broward's Emergency Operations Center (EOC -- normally the county's hurricane management headquarters). He contacted the local Democratic Party, which instructed him to attend a "certification" class the next day at an office in Hollywood before they would permit him to start working. In the early morning class, he said he and eight others were instructed on what to look for in the recount and how to act. "They teach you the challenges and give you ballot situations where you inspect the ballots as they are quickly held up for you to see," he explained. "Most were easy, some were tricky, and you have to yell 'challenge' if you see anything that could favor Gore, quickly record a note of it for the lawyers -- all while keeping your attention on the next ballot." He said that most of his classmates "were dumb: some people kept challenging ballots that would favor Bush, while another took so long to record her challenges that she missed several of the following ballots. I was the only person in my group of idiots to pass the 'test.'" Some of the otherwise elderly group had insufficient eyesight to adequately review the ballots. When a group of ladies didn't pass, they complained that it was their "right to protect our votes." The trainer explained to them that their challenges were only protecting Bush votes -- as they missed all of the Gore challenges -- and he would not allow them to be re-tested. Another lady asked -- after ten minutes of training if it was a problem that she was a Republican. She was quickly informed that she should contact the Republican Party office if she wished to help -- but that this session was just for pro-Gore Democrats. Once approved, the lawyer proceeded to the EOC at a designated time and was quickly selected to observe precinct counts. He described the whole experience as somewhat "interesting and boring at the same time ... [but] with lots of political geeks."


ALL DRESSED UP AND NO PLACE TO GO. After being vetted by the respective parties, the volunteer observers were sent to the EOC -- where they waited outside in lines to be selected by the Gore and Bush staffers to be allowed to proceed inside. The campaign staffers showed a clear preference for younger volunteers and for ones dressed in a professional demeanor (i.e., concerns for how they would look on TV), often leaving angry seniors and rabid partisans waiting outside for lengthy periods before being selected (or not selected at all). One younger volunteer in a Gore shirt was covered front and back with a multitude of campaign buttons -- simultaneously demonstrating both his enthusiasm and lack of any common sense (i.e., how did he plan to sit back in a chair when he had 20+ campaign buttons pinned onto the BACK of his t-shirt?).


DEMS GET THE GOOD FOOD ... REPUBLICANS GET COLD LUNCHES. Volunteer observers for both camps were commenting that the Democratic break room in the EOC had much better food than did the Republicans. The Democrats had hot food catered and donated from area restaurants, food/drink distributors, etc. (Broward is, after all, a heavily Democratic county) -- resulting in a cornucopia of delicacies. The GOP break room, by contrast, had cold box lunches. Republican volunteers openly grumbled that the Dems had better food.


EATIN' CHADS. In the first two days of the count, Republicans lobbed allegations that Democratic observers -- and even some counters -- were "eating chads" or otherwise manipulating the ballots to force chads to drop to the floor. Even 70-year-old Supervisor of Elections Jane Carroll -- the lone GOP member of the Board (who soon after resigned because she could not handle the stress) -- discounted these charges. Carroll noted that the chads routinely -- and intentionally -- fly off when the ballots are sent through the tabulating machines. She also noted that the chads on the EOC floor could have fallen from any of the many races on card and would not necessarily have come from the Presidential part of the ballot. She said there was no significance to the chads on the floor. Broward GOP Chairman Ed Pozzuoli brandished a bag of fallen chads in a crime scene envelope on TV and proclaimed that there was "a blizzard of chads" flying around inside the EOC ... and that "Hurricane Chad" had struck the county's hurricane command post. Within another two days, no one cared anymore about the chads on the floor -- and Canvassing Board members, campaign workers and attorneys working for both the Bush and Gore camps all had made souvenirs out of empty EOC envelopes filled with discarded chads. When I arrived at the EOC, my mother immediately handed me an EOC envelope filled with chads (an EOC envelope that I immediately got autographed by the three canvas board members). As for the eating of chads, I can attest that I never saw anyone eat them (except for me). I'm not certain about the best way to prepare chads having never seen a chad recipe -- I don't even know if you're supposed to drink red or white wine while eating chads (although I suspect white) -- but I did learn that you'd need to eat a lot of the little 1/8" x 1/16" paper chads to be able to even taste them. I ate a few and can tell you that, despite what you've heard, they taste nothing like chicken. I've come to the conclusion that chads -- like tofu, Brussels sprouts and raw oysters -- must be an acquired taste.


THE ANSWER: OXYGEN AND TELEVISION CAMERAS. The question: name two things that Congressman Peter Deutsch (D-FL) cannot live without. Like a moth attracted to a porch light at night, Deutsch could not stay away from the glare of the TV camera spotlights. Even though he had no formal role in the counting process, Deutsch was a ubiquitous presence throughout the entire two weeks of the re-count. During the final days of the count, he logged hours each day in front of the network cameras located downstairs outside the courthouse ... but spent barely any minutes upstairs observing the actual proceedings inside Judge Robert Lee's Courtroom 6780. Even his fellow Democrats were rolling their eyes and cracking jokes about Deutsch's seemingly narcissistic infatuation with the cameras.


"I AWOKE TO YOUR MOTHER IN MY BED." This was the subject of an email I received last week ... referring to one of her frequent appearances on NPR radio in the morning. My mother was clearly becoming an anathema to the Republicans -- but she was not ducking the fire. A Lexis check showed that she was in over 170 newspaper stories last week, usually being quoted as saying that Broward would press forward with the count (and consider "dimples" if they showed voter intent) unless ordered by a court to stop -- or being lambasted by the Bush campaign for being pro-Gore.


INSIDE THE EYE OF THE STORM. "Where are you? You need to get here right away or you're going to miss it," my mother instructed me via my cell phone. I was sitting down to eat a quick Gunzburger, Lee and Rosenberglunch having just gotten off the plane in Fort Lauderdale. She explained that high-powered Democratic attorney David Boies of New York was going to imminently face-off against local GOP attorney Bill Scherer at the EOC to present legal arguments about whether or not to count dimpled chads. I stayed to finish my lunch at CPK before heading out to the EOC. When I arrived -- about an hour later than planned -- the legal face-off had yet to occur. As I made my way into the small Canvassing Board meeting room inside the EOC, I saw Peter Deutsch giving yet another interview on the other side of the glass in the adjacent media room. Former Florida Congressman Larry Smith (D), some local Democratic officials, Gore campaign attorneys Charles Lichtman and Chris Sautter, former Dukakis campaign manager John Sasso and Gore consultant Paul Pezzella milled about in the big room waiting for the meeting to start inside the smaller interior room next door. The Democrats bitterly complained that Rosenberg, after just half a day of service, was already "doing everything the Republicans want him to do." The Republicans -- led by Montana Governor and likely Bush Cabinet member Marc Racicot (R) -- had grabbed the glass-enclosed "good conference room" 20 feet away and were huddled in a strategy session with Scherer and several other attorneys from Scherer's firm. A few of the men in the GOP room each sported a large paper "W" tied to pink strings around their necks, identifying them as Bush campaign staffers. Soon Boies arrived with US Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) in tow -- although Levin said nothing and seemed there only to lend an appearance of Congressional Democratic support for Gore's re-count actions. Scherer argued first, using a series of huge posters with excerpts from Board transcripts and affidavits. In the small, crowded room, Scherer's gigantic exhibits were much too large. Boies followed -- in rumpled blue suit and black sneakers -- using one of Scherer's own exhibits and providing none of his own. After both sides made their arguments -- or mutual soliloquies -- the board simply said "thank you" to both sides. While he had a captive audience, Judge Lee took the opportunity before adjourning the meeting to give a veiled lecture to Racicot for impugning his integrity in a televised interview the day before. The Board then recessed for a few minutes -- which gave several of the participants from both sides time to get some autographs from Boies. Rosenberg -- whom I've known for over a decade -- came up and asked me if I think he's "doing okay ... I just don't want to look stupid up there." When leaving for the day, I saw Peter Deutsch giving yet another interview.


DUMB IDEA #1. Several people sent variants on the following email suggestion to the Board and campaign officials: "I don't understand why you people are sitting there trying to guess the intent of the voters. If a ballot is unclear, you should just call up the voter and ask him who he meant to vote for!" Umm ... with a secret ballot and all ... that would seem to be a bit impractical as we don't exactly write our names on our ballots.


UNITY? At breakfast at the Floridian diner on Thanksgiving morning -- before we all headed over to Courtroom 6780 of the Broward County Courthouse -- my friend Dana and I were joined for a while by GOP Chair Ed Pozzuoli. After we joked for a little while about the whole mess, I told Eddie that I still believe that all Americans need to unite behind the winner -- whomever it ultimately is -- for the sake of giving legitimacy and moral authority to our next President. Eddie's answer: "I agree 100% -- so long as it's Bush." What if Gore becomes President? "I will not accept Al Gore as President and I don't care what damage it does to the country."


THANKSGIVING DAY. The Broward Canvassing Board decided to meet on Thanksgiving, knowing they would need to work through the holiday if they hoped to finish in time for the Florida Supreme Court's imposed deadline of Sunday at 5:00 p.m. Throughout the day, the Gore team constantly griped about how "lazy" and "irresponsible" the Palm Beach County Canvassing Board was for taking the holiday off (which ultimately caused them to miss the deadline by a few hours). Mother welcomed everyone with a message of "Happy Thanksgiving. Welcome to the parade." Noting that I was present, she joked that -- in the family spirit -- she was spending the holiday with her family. Just a normal celebration of family values! I even got to spend a few minutes as her co-counsel (pro bono, of course) at the table on two of the days, briefly filling in for attorney Larry Davis while he got pulled out to handle some other matters.


OUT IN THE STREET. In front of the Broward County Courthouse, Bush supporters in front of the courthouseBush and Gore supporters hammed it up for the TV cameras. The 150+ Bush supporters easily outnumbered the approximately 40 Gore folks -- so much so that the police had to keep them segregated into two separate roped areas with a wide divide in between. The Gore backers looked fairly disorganized while the Bush supporters had a nice supply fresh t-shirts and signs ("Sore-Loserman" and "George W. Bush IS President!" among the most popular). The Bush shirts and signs seemed to be coming from the recreation vehicle parked down the street, as a steady stream of Bush backers kept entering and exiting the RV with new supplies. Inquiries to these Bush folks about planning and financing of the event produced the repeated stock response: "I'm just a volunteer." The Bush supporters also were on the better side of the street -- as all of the media interview tents had already been erected on what became the Bush side of the police ropes. When CNN and others tried to interview -- yet again -- Peter Deutsch, the Bush people tried to shout him down with calls of "Peter the Cheater" to drown out his remarks. Police intervened at one point to rescue a group of Democratic state legislators who tried to hold a press conference for the television cameras -- which were located on the Bush side. Hey, the early bird gets the better side of the street. Other sights: the guy paid to walk around waving a NewsMax.com sign in the background during TV interviews ... and the Bush supporters who each walked up to me and asked if I wanted to interview them for their thoughts on the recount process.


"I'M READY FOR MY CLOSE UP, MR. DeMILLE." If you can remember the courtroom scenes from the satirical comedy movie "Serial Mom" a few years ago (i.e., the part when Suzanne Summers walks into the courtroom -- playing herself -- as the celebrity who will play the serial killer Mom in the made-for-TV movie within the film), then you'll Congressman Buyer speaking to the crowdknow what a lot of the recount felt like everyday in Courtroom 6780. Both parties paraded in political celebrities for brief appearances. The Democrats sat their folks off to the side in the jury box, while the Republicans tried to give each of their people a turn as an official recount observer at the main table with the Board. A succession of GOP bigwigs -- many seemingly auditioning for Cabinet seats -- marched through the courtroom: Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating (possible FBI Director or Attorney General), Montana Governor Marc Racicot (possible Interior Secretary), Michigan Governor John Engler (possible Labor Secretary), New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman (Roll Call reported today she is a potential Bush Cabinet member), Indiana Congressman Steve Buyer (possible Veterans Affairs Secretary) ... plus South Dakota Governor Bill Janklow, California Congressman Duncan Hunter, Arkansas Congressman Asa Hutchinson and 1996 GOP Presidential nominee Bob Dole. Democrats brought in a parade of largely local officials -- mainly Broward School Board Members, local elected officials and Florida state legislators -- plus US Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Carl Levin (D-MI), Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-FL) and Congressmen Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Peter Deutsch (D-FL) and Jerry "Hint of Fascism in the Air" Nadler (D-NY). The rotund Nadler had trouble squeezing his immense frame into one of the jury box chairs along side the main table -- and said little during his very brief visit to Courtroom 6780.


DUMB IDEA #2. Some people emailed variants on this comment to Board members and the campaigns: "I voted for Al Gore but I now want to change my vote to Bush. Tell me what I need to do to change my vote?" One top GOP operative joked that "those people should lose their right to vote." A Democratic state representative added that maybe Florida should simply "impose some kind of intelligence test" for voters.


THE PATTERN ... AND THE PERCEPTION. While the perception was that the three board members were often split 2-1 (my mother and Judge Lee viewed as pro-Gore and Judge Rosenberg viewed as pro-Bush), the reality was that the board voted 3-0 on at least 80% of all of the ballots. Still, the Republicans constantly complained -- and still do -- that my mother was clearly pro-Gore ("I see a very slight but clear indent at #3 with one corner partially dislodged and light coming through just slightly at the corner if you hold it up. This is clearly a Gore vote."). The Democrats, meanwhile, complained that Judge Rosenberg was taking instructions from the GOP and intentionally trying to delay the process with his lengthy examinations of each individual ballot in order to miss the Secretary of State's new certifying deadline for the revised totals ("[look at ballot, remove eyeglasses, look at ballot up close again] this ballot appears to be a ballot that has been voted successfully in other races on the ballot ... [long pause, use magnifying glass] ... no vote in the Presidential race ... [long pause, hold the ballot up to the ceiling light again] ... no reasonable certainty so this is a 'no vote' [put eyeglasses on again]"). Judge Lee, who as chair would vote last, usually just remarked quickly during splits: "I agree with the Commissioner" or "I agree with Judge Rosenberg."


THE CHINESE MENU. A Republican joke: "It's getting near dinner time and they hand Sue Gunzburger a Chinese restaurant menu. She studies it for just a second and then pronounces 'I see a bump at #3. It's a Gore vote.' One of the other board members tells Gunzburger that #3 on the Chinese menu is Orange Crispy Chicken. 'I don't care, I still say itís a Gore vote,' she responds." Mom thought this one was pretty funny.


THE BODYGUARDS. Because of some rather threatening and hostile phone messages, Internet postings and emails, all three of the canvassing board members had bodyguards from the Broward County Sheriff's Office with them around-the-clock until the day after they finished working. Thus, we came to have the two gentlemen accompany us to our Thanksgiving dinner at a nice, local restaurant. My mother, as you can imagine, did not have time to cook this year. One Republican emailed me that the Board members were "too busy stuffing the ballot to find the time to stuff the turkey this year." And, yes, we also made sure the deputies ate a nice Thanksgiving dinner.


AUDITIONING FOR PEOPLE MAGAZINE'S "100 SEXIEST" LIST? Jay Leno on the "Tonight Show" used a news clip of Judge Rosenberg squinting at a ballot and using a magnifying glass as a mock TV commercial for laser corrective eye surgery. Back in Courtroom 6780 the next day, one news photographer tells the paunchy, balding jurist: "Next to Brad Pitt, you're probably the most photographed man in America right now." Judge Rosenberg, generally a very private man, sarcastically responds: "Great, that's just what I need."


BACK IN THE STREETS ... The Bush and Gore crowds out front are yelling nasty chants back and forth. Of course, they're all too far removed in distance to be heard or seen by anyone in or around Courtroom 6780. "Na-na-na-na, Na-na-na-na, Hey, Hey, Goodbye," the Bush people chanted towards the Gore side. The small band of Gore partisans vainly tried to drown out the word "goodbye" by shouting "D-U-I" at key moments in the GOP chant. The Gore people shouted: "Bought and paid for!" at the Bush camp -- and the Bush crowd loudly responded: "No we're not!" That one was a reference to the Democratic jokes about many in the GOP crowd being paid operatives flown into Florida just to create a presence in the street ... "because there are no Republicans that actually live in Broward County." Democrats have referred to the well-dressed crowd as the "Brooks Brothers demonstrators" ... and made fun of the nearby valet parking being used by some of the Bush people ("Valet parking for a demonstration," sneered a top Gore operative). A few of the Bush staffers in the street and in the courtroom sported blue baseball caps with a large "W." and a smaller "Bush Recount Club" stitched in orange across the front. The Bush people happily noted that many of the key Gore staffers on the scene were also flown in from other states.


I COULD USE A DRINK. Broward Public Defender Al Schreiber (D) -- recently re-elected to a seventh term -- stopped by the recount dressed in shorts and a colorful Hawaiian shirt. His office, although closed for the holiday weekend, is in the same new wing of the courthouse as Courtroom 6780. Schreiber has always been a rather refreshingly outspoken guy (1992: "They say Clinton is a draft dodger, a pot smoker and a womanizer -- I like those qualities in a man!") -- and he also commands a rather large machine of efficient Democratic workers. Schreiber made a few wry observations, then invited some friends and reporters to come down to his third floor office for drinks from his legendary frozen daiquiri machine.


O.J. CAN HELP! Another joke circulating was that new Miami resident O.J. Simpson was offering to help Gore. According to the GOP joke, O.J. invited Gore to join him so together they could search the state for Nicole's "real" killers ... and all the "missing" Gore votes.


Ron and Governor KeatingMAKING AN EFFORT. Most of the "celebrity" observers took the second or third GOP chairs at the table, leaving the task of actually reviewing each ballot to one of the GOP lawyers in the first seat. One exception was Governor Keating, who dutifully took the main chair and leaned in for a close look at each ballot. He was a gentleman throughout the proceedings, making an effort to keep the atmosphere civil. During one of the breaks, Keating told me that the Board members appeared "to be three good people trying to make the best of a very bad process." He said his objections were "entirely systemic" -- that it was wrong to recount just selective Democratic counties. When asked if the Bush campaign should have asked for a hand recount of the entire state, Keating said "the [Bush] campaign let the clock run out on that one. I wasn't a part of that decision ... but a statewide hand count might have solved some of these problems. Maybe the people would have been satisfied with the fairness ... but, with this way, they're stretching to find votes for Gore or Bush."


STUFF YOU CAN LEARN ON THE INTERNET. After Matt Drudge pasted Mom's picture on the lead story of his DrudgeReport.com site all last weekend ("Gunzburger's Gall: Drudge HomepageTranscripts from Broward Recount Show Hunt for Gore Votes as Race Tightens"), enraged conservatives let loose a volley of attacks against my mother on various sites. On FreeRepublic.com, there were at least six message threads dedicated to bashing her -- and there were more on Lucianne.com (including one irresponsible posting containing an actual death threat ... subsequently removed) and other sites. From those message boards, I learned a lot about Mom that our family had never known before. Among these revelations were that Mom is a communist, a socialist, a "descendant of Adolf Hitler", a crook, a lesbian, the lesbian lover of Palm Beach Canvassing Board Member Carol Roberts, and lots more stuff. There were also some folks who impolitely called her various nasty names. One person called her a "wrench" and another called her a "winch" (note: while both of these items may be useful in an auto repair shop, I think the word these two illiterate folks meant to use was "wench"). And -- FYI -- I also learned on FreeRepublic that I was apparently having a secret sexual relationship with openly gay Judge Lee (thus seemingly explaining why he was siding so often with my mother on the split 2-1 votes). Candid note: apparently the relationship was so secret that neither Judge Lee nor I even knew about it until we each read it online. The black helicopter crowd was also at work on the net, noting in one posting that my Politics1 Report newsletter was "eerily accurate" with the recent election predictions "as if he [ME!] had some advance knowledge of how the votes were going to go." It must all be true because I read it online. Just ask Pierre Salinger ... because how could anything on the Internet possibly be false?


TRY ORDERING THAI FOOD FOR THIRTY PEOPLE! Friday night and my mother and Judge Lee and tired of pizza or sandwiches for yet another meal. They told Deputy County Attorney Norm Ostrau that they wanted Thai food for dinner. Ostrau -- who apparently dislikes Thai food -- disgustedly walked up to me and pleads that I talk my mother out of the idea because it will be too complicated. When the board takes a break, my mother and Judge Lee still want Thai food. Judge Rosenberg adamantly doesn't want Thai or Chinese food, saying that he can't eat anything with MSG. Ostrau then tells me to handle the food order if my mother still insists on Thai food. Fine, so I handle it. The restaurant says they don't use any MSG. Judge Rosenberg says he'll still eat the sandwich he brought from home. I then find a way to order Thai food for 30 (ten servings each of a beef dish, a chicken dish and Pad Thai noodles ... plus spring rolls and steamed rice) for the board, staff and deputies. The restaurant had to check with the owner before agreeing to make the food -- and then we put the charge on a county credit card. Of course, since it's the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, no place was willing to deliver to the courthouse. I asked a Democratic activist standing nearby if he would volunteer to pick-up the food -- and I even tried to find a GOP volunteer to go with him (hey, I was trying to keep everything balanced). The Republicans rudely refuse to help the guy (they even call him a few nasty names), so the guy is forced to go out on his own to pick up the food. A few minutes later the Republicans come back to me and apologized, saying that they would have been willing to help ... but not with that particular Democratic activist. The deputies later help the guy get the food to the courtroom ... only to realize they have no plates for the food. After a scramble, some plates are finally located -- so they don't have to eat out of paper coffee cups (the initial suggestion). See, nothing is easy with the recount. The New York Times asked the Board if they could photograph them eating dinner during the meal recess, but the board rejected the request. By the way, Judge Rosenberg ended up eating the MSG-free Thai food (and he didn't get ill). And Ostrau was still griping about the meal the next day.


An Ewok and Senator MikulskiGETTING STRANGE. Maybe she was auditioning for a role as an Ewok in an upcoming Star Wars movie (note: Ewoks were the little guys in the "Empire Strikes Back" movie) ... because how else can one explain this story? When the Board recognized US Senator Barbara Mikulski (D), the diminutive Mikulski responded with a booming: "God bless you. May the force be with you!" Huh? Governor Christie Whitman's "It's a pleasure to watch democracy at work" comment earlier that day somehow seemed a bit more dignified.


BOB DOLE'S EVIL TWIN. Bob Dole stopped by the recount to be a GOP observer on two separate days. On the first day, Dole looked great -- appearing tanned, smiling and wearing a dark blue suit and red tie. On the second day, Dole looked like Bela Lugosi's corpse ... looking surly, wearing a powder blue polyester jacket and open shirt, with his hair dyed too dark for the very pale tint of makeup he was now wearing from his earlier TV appearances. After Dole was ready to leave again, the Board took a recess and lawyers from each side posed for separate photographs with Dole. Dole then walked out and told cameras that the Democrats were trying to steal the election -- and singled my mother out for specific criticism as a hardcore Gore partisan.


PUBLIC TOURS. Members of the public were also allowed to squeeze into two rows of benches in Courtroom 6780. They had to sign up on waiting lists to get their ten-minute turns in the courtroom. On Thanksgiving Day, a German tourist in a t-shirt and sandals slipped into the part of the courtroom reserved for the media -- and minutes later was standing on the benches taking souvenir snapshots with his plastic pocket camera. At one point an older guy wandered in during a break on the final day, sporting mussed hair, chewing gum, sipping from a Coke cup in his hand and wearing a South Dakota State University tracksuit. It turns out the guy wasn't a tourist -- as the "tourist" was actually South Dakota Governor Bill Janklow (R). The Republican team found Janklow a chair along the back rail -- but did not invite him to sit at the main table.


GETTING SNIPPY. "No clear voter intent. No vote," says my mother. The ballot was then passed to Judge Rosenberg, who removed his thick eyeglasses and slowly studied the ballot with a large magnifying glass. After about a minute, Rosenberg pronounced that he can see "some dimpling" and "marks around #2 [the Bush ballot spot] ... It's a Bush vote." The ballot was then handed to Judge Lee, who quickly said: "I don't see any marks. This is a 'no vote.'" Rosenberg tries to appeal this decision, asking Lee if he'd like to use the magnifying glass to examine the ballot again. "If I have to use a magnifying glass just to see something, then there is obviously no clear voter intent demonstrated on the ballot," Lee snaped back. Lee, normally exceedingly polite and easygoing, just wanted to keep the count moving so they can all get finished.


HIGH PRAISE INDEED. Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-FL) stopped by the show for the final two hours of the recount late on Saturday night -- with three aides in tow. Taking a break from one of her frequent cell phone calls to the Rev. Jesse Jackson in Palm Beach County ("Jesse says that Bob Dole is talking crazy on TV tonight because he's overdosing on Viagra"), Brown turned to me and said: "Your mother is doing a great job. She's a real hero." Considering Brown's ongoing problems with the FBI, I don't think we'll be seeing that comment appearing on Mom's next re-election campaign brochures in 2002.


SILLY SEASON. Everyone was getting kind of punch drunk towards the final hours. When Governor Whitman returned to the count later in the evening for a second shift at the table -- after doing the TV news show circuit -- she pointed to the bag of Dove chocolates on the table and commented "I came back for the chocolates. They don't have any good candy in Palm Beach County." "I brought the chocolates," Mom volunteered, "it was my husband's idea." Judge Lee quickly joked that "we also have Altoids ... the 'curiously strong mint.'" "I wonder what these free commercials on national TV are worth to Dove and Altoids," the judge mused.


A WISE MAN ONCE SAID ... About an hour before the end of the recount, my mother inexplicably stopped the recount for a brief moment to read aloud from the sappy message printed inside of her Dove candy wrappers: "The best reward for a good deed is to have done it," she giddily exclaimed. Congressman Steve Buyer -- a GOP observer at the table -- then responded in kind: "My wrapper says 'Love is like a sheltering tree.' Gee, canít we all feel the love here," he mockingly asked in a deadpan voice.


THE END. "The last ballot," announced Judge Lee as he held up the final ballot just before midnight on Saturday night. This prompted a loud round of applause from the audience. "It's a Gore vote," my mother loudly announced and smiled. Rosenberg disagreed, but Lee agreed it is a Gore vote. With that, the manual recount in Broward was finished. Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) quickly stepped forward to ask the three board members to sign a voided ballot he obtained from a county attorney -- and they happily obliged him. Within moments, requests for autographed voided ballots came from many of the participants on both sides. The three board members -- using a single pad of about fifty official ballots (each previously stamped "Void") -- autographed ballots for a few minutes as the accountants verified the final vote tally and County Attorney Ed Dion prepared the certification papers. Gore attorney and published novelist Charles Lichtman inscribed gift copies of his latest book to each of the Board members and several of the others involved in the process. The Democratic and Republican teams of opposing attorneys shook hands with each other, some even exchanged hugs, and then they all posed for a few souvenir group photographs. After a few minutes, the Board then signed the official papers and the Broward recount was history. A county attorney flew the papers to Tallahassee the next morning. Hmmm ... how long will it be until one of those signed ballots surfaces in an Ebay auction? And, if you're wondering, Judge Rosenberg kept the large magnifying glass (but says he'd give it to the Smithsonian if they want it).


UMM ... YOU'RE A LITTLE LATE. On Sunday morning -- the morning after Broward had completed its recount -- MSNBC found just two women with Bush signs standing in front of the closed courthouse. The older woman, resplendent in elegantly-styled white hair, dark blue blouse and large pearl necklace, explained she was out-of-town for the past few days but still wanted to come down to the courthouse now to show her support for Bush. She mentioned she also brought a "friend" with her. The "friend" -- a middle-aged Venezuelan woman who could have easily been the older woman's housekeeper if this were a TV sitcom -- explained in her heavily-accented English that she was angry because she "came to the United States from Venezuela twenty years ago just to vote for George W. Bush and they are stealing my vote!" Twenty years ago?


THE CHECKOUT LINE AT PUBLIX. A trip to the supermarket quickly showed Mom how fleeting her fame was (excluding the 50,000+ angry emails that awaited her at the office on Monday). Twelve hours earlier, she was viewed live on national TV and then gave a 1:00 a.m. interview to CBS's "60 Minutes" show. Now, she was pushing her shopping cart through the aisles at the Publix supermarket. At the checkout, she used the lane staffed by a woman who has worked at the store for years. "How was your Thanksgiving, Sue," the woman asked my mother. "I had to work," responded Mom. "Oh, that's too bad. I got the day off," said the cashier. Life returning to normal. Mom and Rosenberg proceed to reject invitations for some TV interviews over the next few days, with Rosenberg explaining that he just wants to "go back to being anonymous again."


UNWINDING. Ah ... back in DC ... away from the TV for the night ... and away from the recount and court contests ... and doing something I love: attending an NHL hockey match. Sitting in the MCI Center last night, watching a hockey game -- the Caps versus Tampa Bay (although I'm a Florida Panthers fan). The recount seemed like a long way away ... and far from my mind ... until a nearby fan (obviously a disgruntled Democrat) angrily yelled at one of the officials: "Hey, Ref, what kind of call was that? You're as crooked as Katherine Harris!" Oh well.


SOME FINAL WORDS. Trucking to Tallahassee Okay, so the South Florida ballots are being driven up to Tallahassee right now under police escort for the upcoming court hearing. Presumably -- in true South Florida tradition -- they tied one of those fuzzy things to the truck antenna and will make the slow-speed drive with the left turn signal blinking throughout the many hours it takes to get to the state capital. The long drive to Tallahassee is being covered live on TV from overhead helicopter shots -- prompting O.J. Simpson to weigh in today with a comparison to his nationally televised police chase of his white Bronco truck [note: I'm not making this part up!]: "In my case it may have been a little more intriguing because people didn't know what was going to happen. Here they know the ballots are going to get to Tallahassee."

I agree with Governor Keating. I think the Broward Canvassing Board consisted of three honorable, hard-working people who each tried to do their best under very difficult circumstances. Each applied somewhat different personal standards when reviewing the ballots (i.e., one of the GOP objections) but collectively did what they thought was correct. Personally, I probably would have applied a more conservative, restrictive personal standard when reviewing the ballots (but, then again, I wasn't one of the three people sitting on the board).

All in all, I think I did a fairly good job of staying somewhat balanced during these rather surreal events. I felt at times like an extra in a crowd scene of some bizarre Fellini film of patients in a mental ward (this is NOT a reference to the Board... but a reference to EVERYONE involved, including the media!). The next issue of the Politics1 Report will return to our customary format ... with political developments from around the nation. No more recount stuff. I promise.

Until next time,

Ron Gunzburger
Publisher, Politics1.com

 

 

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